News for the week of Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
Dec. 22: Courage
By Josh Moore

Focal Passage: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:19-23

When trials come, all men want courage. Yet, our society often celebrates machismo that identifies courage with brute strength or lack of feeling and emotion. We imagine our heroes going through life without the debilitating anxiety and fear that often grips us. I remember watching a special on the History Channel about Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. They all admitted to being gripped by fear, yet they carried out the task. How? These decorated soldiers recalled that in the midst of fear, their training, the mission ahead, and their comrades pushed them forward. The Bible records many accounts of God calling ordinary people to carry out extraordinary missions for the kingdom of God. He equipped each of them with courage to carry out important tasks. This year for our Christmas lesson we study the courage exhibited by Joseph to carry out God’s plan for his family in the midst of difficulty surrounding him.

Courage is tested in the midst of trouble (1:18-19). Courage can never be exemplified in the midst of bliss and ease. This is one of the life’s great paradoxes. Often, the noblest deeds are borne out of extreme conflict. The same was true of Joseph. While Joseph was engaged to Mary, she was found to be pregnant. Engagement in first-century Judaism was much different than our custom. During a Jewish engagement, the man and woman were legally husband and wife, even though they did not yet live together. For an engaged woman to become pregnant would bring great shame on both the husband and wife. Joseph is thrust into an extremely tough situation that had few answers. Often, when faced with trial, we do not immediately turn to God for guidance, but try to solve the problem ourselves. It seemed Joseph’s only rational option was to divorce Mary quietly to save his reputation. God had different plans. 

Courage comes as a gift from God (1:20-23). True courage is not something that we generate within ourselves; it comes through God’s empowerment. In order for Joseph to make the courageous choice, God sent an angel to him in a dream, informing him that Mary had conceived through the Holy Spirit. Joseph and Mary had been appointed by God to help fulfill the great prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, that a virgin would give birth to a son, and his name would be called Immanuel, “God with us.” The love and calling of God along with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit fills the Christian with courage. Christians can stand in the midst of suffering because of the grace given by God through faith, which produces perseverance, character, and hope, which has been poured out upon us by God through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5). God used Joseph and Mary to pour out His love on sinful humanity. I John 4:18 says that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Confronted with the glorious plan of God’s love for humanity, Joseph’s plans concerning Mary’s pregnancy quickly changed, and empowered by God, he was able to courageously defy the conventions of social norms to boldly honor Mary and the Lord as a faithful husband. 

Courage follows God’s Word obediently (1:24-25; 2:19-23). This is exactly what Joseph did. Since courage comes from the Lord, believers can boldly follow His Word. When faced with the threat from Herod, Joseph again faithfully followed the Lord to lead his family to Egypt. He was willing to leave the comfort and familiarity of his homeland to follow the Word of the Lord. Just as soldiers rely on their training and orders to display valor in the heat of battle, believers can face impossible odds, because God is with us. Jesus Christ told us in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

— Moore is the director of church relations at Union University in Jackson. He also serves as minister of education at First Baptist Church, Dresden.


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